In addition to these wraith-like “withdrawal symptoms,” one also sees lines and ciphers that stand for nothing but themselves and apparently developed out of spontaneous, loose movements of the brush. One is inclined to speak of gestures or notations with a certain “expression” if one did not know that Bertenburg is skeptical of the long-serving categories of “immediateness,” “spontaneity,” or even “expressivity” as the foundation of contemporary painting.
And yet in some paintings we discover lines, arcs, streaks, or wider strips of color no longer beholden to an imagined pictorial space or implied reference to an object but only to themselves. At most they constitute counterparts to the characteristic style of the painting hand, but proliferate back and forth between several color centers in the painting with rather blurred surfaces like a network, or they connect the individual focuses of an image among one another like a rhizome. They at most testify to the concrete use of painterly means, and even after prolonged contemplation do not want to be anything other than swaths of color and lines applied in motion.
Sometimes, however, these purely “abstract” elements are subject to blurs, and the clarity of their gradient on a foundation of different, contrasting colors seems to gradually dissipate into a mist. As if a precisely set symbol were about to volatilize into the illusory space of an imaginary third dimension in the painting. If one allows oneself to become involved in this cooperation and juxtaposition of contradictory visual experiences, one begins to reflect one’s own perceptions in combination with painting. Indeed, one gets the impression that Bertenburg once again “painted over” the picture during the act of painting on a “more abstract” level in thoughts that are ultimately in a position to pass over into brushstrokes—much like if one reconsiders a thought or rereads a text in order to understand it better and subsequently overwrite it yet again. Thinking seeing, remembering, imagining, and painting are ideally one.
Achim Bertenburg was born in 1954 in Solingen
He studied art, and currently lives and works in Bremen
He has taught at the Hochschule für Kunst in Bremen since 2010
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